American Printer's mission is to be the most reliable and authoritative source of information on integrating tomorrow's technology with today's management.

Speed & Accuracy

Nov 1, 2007 12:00 AM


         Subscribe in NewsGator Online   Subscribe in Bloglines

For Bill Kaufman, president of Allegra Printing & Imaging in Portage, MI, workflow was all about matching proofs to press sheets. “We struggled for the first three years that we owned our [first four-color] press,” he says. “We didn't understand how important workflow was when operating a four-color press.”

Although this Allegra location had been producing CTP plates for five years, it did not have a workflow solution in place. When the Shinohara (Elk Grove Village, IL) four-color press was installed about four years ago, the shop's volume of jobs increased and Kaufman realized something was missing.

“We had to reassure customers who received our proofs that the color on their printed job would be right and would not look like the color in the proof,” says production manager Steve Block.

Removing rework

Kaufman installed a Navigator GPS workflow from Xitron (Ann Arbor, MI) to drive the shop's polyester platesetter. Navigator GPS 7.2.1/3.3 supports native PDF 1.6 files and provides hybrid digital/offset workflow support. The workflow consists of the Harlequin-based Navigator RIP and RIP Manager workflow, including job management, PDF creation and preflighting capabilities.

RIP Manager 3.3 adds increased control of the RIP to the desktop, further reducing the need for specific page setups. Navigator RIP Manager allows operators to manage and control jobs from virtually any prepress workstation. It allows operators to design and store specific workflow sequences and reduces the opportunity for human error. RIP Manager provides the ability to select imposition schemes, trap sets, image rotation, color separation sets and page features. Output device icons allow users to more easily determine the output device in use for a specific workflow.

The in-RIP trapping and imposition options have enhanced Allegra Portage's production capabilities and allowed them to produce business cards 10-up on a sheet. In the past, they'd experienced trapping problems that caused them to run those cards 4-up. When doing step-and-repeat work, an “N-up” option allows for any number of jobs to be placed, limited by the output size. Simple Imposition is an in-RIP imposition solution allowing on-the-fly imposition as part of the RIP process.

Navigator 7.2.1 also supports Version 4.0 ICC profiles. Performance speeds have been increased for many functions of the RIP. ColorPro caches color management information, resulting in less processing time to render a job. To further improve its proofs, Allegra Portage switched to Xitron X1 TotalProof Media for its Epson proofers. X1 media, coupled with specially crafted commercial print profiles from Xitron, assure a high degree of match to the typical offset press sheet.

“Colors rarely matched before we installed the Navigator GPS workflow and X1 media,” says Block. “This solution solved our proofing, trapping and workflow issues. Today we have full confidence in our proofs matching the press.”

The workflow has reduced the production time necessary to get jobs on press. Before installing Navigator GPS, if a press change was made, the operators would have to go back into their source applications, make job orientation changes and resend the job for output. Navigator GPS allows Block to make last-minute changes with a few mouse clicks. The integrated viewer allows for a soft proof onscreen prior to proof or plate output.

Kaufman adds, “Since installing the Navigator GPS workflow, we have been able to eliminate our plate reruns.”

Allegra Portage purchased a Navigator GPS Bundle solution that included onsite training and installation, and technical support via phone and WebEx. “The training provided by Xitron was great,” says Block. “When we do experience any type of problem, I get a call back within 15 minutes if I don't reach someone directly to start. The ability to WebEx into our system to analyze and fix problems has been a real help.”

The big picture

From its startup in 1988, Allegra Portage has grown annual revenues to more than $1.5 million. “Our target is to reach $2 million,” says Kaufman. “Our business has been hit by the overall economy of Michigan. We have seen several of our larger companies bought by other companies and then consolidated and moved to other states. We realized that in order to stay in business, we needed to move to more four-color, digital and variable-data work. Navigator GPS has helped tie our prepress and pressroom together, and we know it will continue to get easier and better.”

Today, Kaufman is moving toward an all-PDF workflow. Recently, he installed a Xerox (Rochester, NY) DocuColor 5000 to handle some short-run color work. Using the ability to support third-party output devices via hotfolder, jobs can be processed in Navigator and then sent to the DocuColor for final output.

“We bought Navigator GPS to solve our trapping and color management problems, with workflow as a byproduct,” Block comments. “Now, the workflow capabilities have become one of the biggest benefits.”

Flexibility for far-ranging applications

Digital Quickcolor (Charlotte, NC) has a “can do” approach, providing project consultation for its customers on everything from design to output technology. Owner Patrick Jayne is this year's Sir Speedy Franchisee of the Year and an active member of Sir Speedy's Workflow Advisory Council, which works on coming up with best practices within the Sir Speedy and PIP networks. According to Sir Speedy's Don Lowe, who presented the award, “[Jayne] was an early provider of variable print and of our new integrated direct marketing technology, and he learned firsthand what his customers liked because he talked with them face-to-face.”

The shop runs direct-to-plate offset jobs on a six-color Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) Speedmaster 52 press with aqueous coater. On the digital side, the shop runs a Xerox Nuvera and iGen3 for monochrome and full-color digital print, as well as versioning and personalization.

“For day-to-day jobs, we have a completely Heidelberg [Printready] workflow,” explains Digital Quickcolor data specialist Van Wilson. “Of course, art that comes in as application files has to be converted to PDF before being inserted into Heidelberg workflow. For jobs that come in through our online ordering system, iWay from Press-sense (Chicago), the jobs destined for digital printing are imposed within that system and go directly to the iGen or Nuvera. Jobs destined for offset are dropped in a hotfolder automatically and enter the Heidelberg system. We use Printready as the workflow for digital color and the press on jobs that do not come in via iWay, as it improves our quality and turnaround time.”

For jobs that incorporate variable data or inline addressing, Wilson extracts the PDFs from Printready and runs them through XMPie's (New York) Personal Effects software, which produces imposed files that go straight to the iGen or Nuvera.

Automated offset

A typical offset job for Digital Quickcolor runs as follows, according to Wilson:

  • Digital Quickcolor receives an eight-page newsletter as an eight-page PDF file.
  • The CSR drops the file into a numbered job folder.
  • Prepress starts the job in the Heidelberg Printready system, either by using a history job as a template or picking a predefined template of actions.
  • Prepress grabs the PDF from the numbered job folder on the network, and an imposed proof for the customer prints automatically.
  • If there are changes, prepress e-mails a low-resolution PDF of the changed file to the customer.
  • Once the proof is approved, production opens the job in Printready and makes plates.

When new jobs come in, Digital Quickcolor's customer service reps determine whether to run a job on offset or digital equipment, according to Wilson. “[The decision] is made based on either run length and pricing, or turnaround times,” he says.

Hybrid targets

Digital print accounts for 32 percent of the shop's overall work. Approximately 16 percent of its business is Web-to-print, of which 90 percent is run on the Xerox machines.

“But, some [incoming Web-to-print orders] are for offset jobs, like envelopes or letterhead,” Wilson explains. Additionally, Digital Quickcolor still does some work involving offset shells with digital imprinting, such as announcement cards that are embossed and then run through the iGen for personalization on demand. “However, most of our digital is all-digital,” he says. “If you are doing color variable-data printing anyway, the quality is sufficient to print the static part that traditionally would have been run on shells.”

Denise Kapel is managing editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at dkapel@americanprinter.com.

In 1988, Bill Kaufman, a former Xerox employee, decided to make the transition from manufacturer to customer. He rented a small facility in Portage, MI, and opened an American Speedy Printing Center.

About Allegra of Portage

Kaufman hit the streets to sell print. His wife, Merrie, ran the front counter and office, and a press operator did the production work. The company's equipment consisted of a black-and-white copier and an Itek 975 offset duplicator with a T-head.

“We sold one black-and-white copy for a dime on our first day in business,” says Kaufman, president of what is now Allegra Print & Imaging of Portage. Business was slow, at first. After three days, the press operator asked Kaufman if it would be all right to bring in a portable television to watch, as there were no jobs to print. “Fortunately, business picked up,” says Kaufman. “In our first full 12 months, we did $120,000 in business.”

Within three years, the business added a two-color press to increase production capabilities. About four years ago, the company added a four-color Shinohara 14 x 20-inch press, making it one of a select group of Allegra franchise locations with four-color capabilities. Today, four presses and offset duplicators fill out the pressroom.

See www.allegraportage.com.

After 30 years of working in the print industry, Tom Ashton decided to strike out on his own. “My biggest problem was that I had never actually operated a press,” he says. He needed a simple, easy-to-run solution that would deliver the quality his customers demand.

Building momentum

“When I decided to start this new business, last summer, I was looking for a solution that would allow me to run a one-man shop, and the 34DI with Momentum Pro from Presstek (Hudson, NH) has done just that,” says Ashton, vice president and owner of Ashton Enterprises (Pensacola, FL) with his wife, Camille Ashton, who is president and CEO.

Presstek introduced the new Momentum Pro Integrated PDF Workflow system at Graph Expo 07, this September. Building on its Harlequin-based Momentum RIP, Presstek's Momentum Pro is a fully integrated RIP and workflow solution designed to streamline and automate the production process using certified PDF tools. The workflow can be used as a centralized PDF creation and preflight system controlled from a prepress workstation, ensuring consistent output to multiple devices.

Ashton says, “I simply import the PDF into the Momentum Pro workflow using predesigned imposition templates, and the press does the rest. I am able to turn out an average of five jobs per day, and as many as eight to 10 on a really good day.”

Already bringing in an average of to $5,000 to $10,000 a week in revenue, and with 1.25 million impressions under his belt in the first 3.5 months, Ashton is well on his way to success. He says, “I know people are looking for good quality at a reasonable price, and I started putting the word out. I have a lot of folks who are loyal to me. Many of them are already sending me 80 percent or more of their four-color work.”

Check out “Build it or buy it?” in our online archive at www.americanprinter.com. PIA/GATF's Julie Shaffer and Joseph Marin detail a host of options for small printers seeking the optimal workflow for their business.

Want to know more?

ECRM's (Tewksbury, MA) new WorkMates PDF-based workflow solution is geared toward printers converting film-based operations into a more efficient digital workflow. It allows them to create and handle PDF files, impose, proof and image plates digitally, with the option to repurpose files at a later date. Users benefit from a high degree of automation, reducing prepress, makeready and production time.

Got CTP?

“Lately, there's been a lot of confusion about workflow. WorkMates is specifically designed for printers migrating from film to a PDF-to-plate workflow,” says Jim Luttrell, director of marketing, ECRM. “WorkMates is scalable. If a printer wants stochastic screening or color-critical ICC matched proofs, all you need to do is add a plug-in module. WorkMates allows printers to configure their digital prepress on an as-needed basis.”

See www.ecrm.com.

At Graph Expo 07, Global Graphics (Centreville, VA) introduced the next generation of the Harlequin RIP. New features offer performance improvements and efficiencies for platesetters, proofing, DI presses, short-run print, wide-format printers and workflow applications.

Next generation

The Harlequin+ Server RIP can process PDF and PostScript files natively. It's reportedly the first commercially available graphic arts RIP to natively process files in the new XPS print format.

The Harlequin+ Server RIP provides faster processing speeds than its predecessors, notably through multithreaded rendering that helps remove RIP bottlenecks in handling raster data and takes full advantage of the new Duo and Quad core technology. A new retained PDF raster feature speeds up variable data processing by only RIPping new content on multipage jobs so that the same areas are not processed repeatedly.

“The option for Navigator GPS users to upgrade their workflow to process XPS natively, just as they have done with PDF and PostScript for many years, will be a tremendous value-added,” says Xitron president Jim Thrush. “Native XPS processing rounds out an already powerful set of workflow tools for small to midsize printers, who represent the majority of the Navigator GPS users.”

Jim Luttrell, director of marketing, ECRM Imaging Systems says, “ECRM is pleased to see Global Graphics on the leading edge of RIP development that includes PDF 1.7 and native XPS file support in v8.0 release.”

Other Global Graphics customers at Graph Expo offering solutions based on Harlequin RIP technology included HP, Agfa, Kodak, Presstek, Ryobi, HighWater Designs and Polkadots Software.

Global Graphics' OEM and system integrator partners will announce products and solutions based on the Harlequin+ Server RIP separately.

See www.globalgraphics.com.

Agfa (Ridgefield Park, NJ) announced the newest version of its :ApogeeX workflow software, version 4.0, at Graph Expo 07. Now commercially available, :ApogeeX 4.0 has been updated with several key advancements:

  • The inclusion of Adobe's PDF Print Engine.
  • Enhanced automation through plate versioning support.
  • A new Digital Quick Strip (DQS) that allows pages to be rendered separately.
  • InkSaving to reduce production costs on press.
  • A new Software Update Manager (SUM) for automatic upgrades and troubleshooting.

Automation options

“With advancements in four separate areas — PDF technology, prepress automation, usability and efficiency — [printers] can increase workplace efficiencies and streamline operations like never before,” says Deborah Hutcheson, senior marketing manager, digital solutions, Agfa North America. She notes that :ApogeeX 4.0 is modular and scalable, with scaled-down versions for small users and an upgrade path to greater automation.

See www.agfa.com.

Visitors to Graph Expo 07 had an opportunity to see the integration of RIPit and Exxtra as part of the new Xanté (Mobile, AL). The new organization is positioning itself as a single-source provider of a complete line of products — platesetters, digital color presses, workflow RIPs, plate processors, plates and chemistry — for all printing needs.

Xanté's OpenRIP Symphony workflow software is built on an Adobe PostScript 3 RIP that features the new Adobe PDF Print Engine. OpenRIP Symphony drives multiple devices from a single RIP, including imagesetters, platesetters, laser printers, digital color presses, copiers, inkjet printers and plotters. Symphony's scanning, trapping, screening and imposition features reportedly are available for the majority of output devices.

One to watch

The user creates a print queue, selecting the output device, media, resolution, linescreen and screening type. The Ticket Editor can be used to make changes to the file setup or print queue settings. Job View shows the status of all files in the software at a glance. Add new print queues and devices, instantly redirect jobs from one device to another, set job options and impose interpreted files.

StripRITE Raster Imposition performs imposition tasks after the file is interpreted. AdvancedScan scan-to-plate allows users to incorporate paper-based originals into a digital workflow. Adobe In-RIP Trapping with TrapZone automatically traps complex pages while the file is being RIPped.

In addition to press profiling, OpenRIP Symphony offers a variety of proofing solutions, including Monitor Preview, RasterView and Advanced Proofing, as well as KoolKolor Proofing for creating color-accurate inkjet proofs and KoolToning Halftone Simulation.

See www.xante.com.

Web-to-print solutions provider Pageflex (Boston) made two workflow-related announcements at Graph Expo 07. Pace Systems Group (Jacksonville Beach, FL) is integrating its ePace print management system with Pageflex Storefront. This will streamline the workflow as online order data is incorporated through print production, finishing and shipping, with Pageflex Storefront providing order tracking. Additionally, Pageflex and Objective Advantage (Houston) announced the integration of two of their flagship products, Pageflex Storefront and OASymbio, into a highly automated solution requiring minimal manual input. The print customer visits a Web site and selects a document product from an online catalog, then customizes its content, specifies print and finishing requirements, and places a print order. Pageflex Storefront sends the output in the form of a Web service call to OASymbio, which takes the data and uses it to manage the entire production process without human intervention.

Lights out